All eyes on KLRU’s innovative fundraising campaign

Art of the Gala Oct 23 Austin
Susannah Winslow of KLRU

Public television’s on-air pledge drive isn’t dead. But Susannah Winslow, membership director of KLRU, is putting it aside this summer. Instead, she’s taking the pledge drive online.

With a goal of raising $50,000 between June 1-5, Winslow hopes to not only meet the goal of the usual on-air pledge drive, she hopes to reach new audiences, especially younger, new-to-Austin audiences.

After all, just about everyone grew up with Sesame Street, has watched Downton Abbey, knows about Austin City Limits and has heard of NOVA, Charlie Rose and Antiques Roadshow, along with the dozens of other must-watch shows offered through the PBS affiliate. Yet only 3 percent of KLRU’s weekly viewers are members. So if they’re not giving from on-air asks, Winslow wants to meet them where they are: on social media.

For public television stations, it can be risky to skip an on-air pledge drive. After all, 85 percent of KLRU’s funding comes from local philanthropy. But if it’s going to take a risk, says Winslow, the summer pledge drive is the time to do it. “June is always a smaller pledge drive for our station, in comparison to on-air pledge drives we hold during December, March and August,” says Winslow. “These drives have much more aggressive goals of $220,000 each.”

Winslow says she set the $50,000 goal by looking back at previous summer, on-air pledge drives, which have raised between $38,000 and $80,000 at a time.

Other stations aren’t as brave — or innovative. In fact, when Winslow presented KLRU’s online-only pledge drive plan at the annual PBS Annual Meeting in May, every other public television station took notice.

“We’re the first station to try this,” says Winslow. “I think it was intriguing for other stations to hear that we were doing something so completely off their radar. That concept of online-only pledge drives is not familiar to most of them.”

“I don’t think the objective is to do away with the on-air pledge drive completely,” says Winslow. “But we’ve got to try to find other avenues to fundraise, and that means meeting different audiences where they are, too.”

monicaklruOne would say it’s time for KLRU to shake things up. Membership has been steady for the past eight years or so, between 15,000 and 16,000, but considering how much Austin has grown, it would stand to reason that membership in the city’s only public television station would grow, too.

Another consideration: The average KLRU donor is 64 years old, which is about the same for other public television stations across the country. Winslow says most viewers don’t consider contributing to the station until they reach about that age.

“We feel like we have a strong and loyal member base, but it would be encouraging to grow that number. Austin is a younger city so our challenge is to figure out how to build relationships with that demographic.”

The on-line fundraiser will promote the hashtag #YourKLRU and enlist station advocates (like Monica Williams, GivingCity CEO and member of the KLRU Community Advisory Board) to run their own personal fundraising pages. There will also be prizes awarded to donors and fundraisers — like ACL tickets, Rokus, T-shirts and books — throughout the campaign.

As of this writing, the fundraiser is on track to hit the $50,000 mark, with $46,000 raised and two days left to go. (UPDATE: With a day-and-a-half to go, the station has surpassed its goal.)

“We have room to experiment with this,” says Winslow. “We hope people see that we’re a dynamic organization with lots of different things— the arts, science, education, all facets of our programming — people can support.

“Meeting our goal and potentially exceeding it, too, is just amazing,” says Winslow. “It means our reach can be extended and that further solidifies that the Central Texas community supports and embraces this way of fundraising.”

Support for our coverage of Fundraising comes from Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Austin Chapter


Art of the Gala Oct 23 Austin
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